By Luke Garrison
Canadian Baseball Network
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- All utility infielders play multiple positions, however, Blue Jays’ swingman Hagen Danner took that concept to a new level growing up in the game.
Playing as both a pitcher and a catcher is unusual in baseball, yet it was nothing new for Toronto’s former 2017 second-round pick.
Though not something he’s done as a pro, Danner performed well at both positions throughout his life and was fortunate enough to always have coaches who supported him.
“All of the coaches I’ve had growing up have done a good job with keeping me well-rested.” he said while standing next to a dugout at Bobby Mattick Training Center in Dunedin, Fla. “Usually I’d catch first in a tournament or during the week in high school then I would pitch on the last day of the week.
“I would get a good break after I pitch so that my arm is not sore when I come back to catch.”
The young infielder’s versatility is especially impressive since he knew about his capabilities from a very early age.
“I started when I was probably about seven years old, doing both.” he said. “I got my first set of catcher’s gear at that age and just realized, going through little league baseball, that I could do both.”
“I really didn’t know what I liked to do better, but I was succeeding at both for a while. More as a pitcher at the start then later on, I started hitting too.”
Hagen graduated from high school in 2017 after an incredible senior year. He hit .350 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs as a catcher while simultaneously going 11–1 with a 1.22 ERA and 92 strikeouts in 6⁄3 innings as a pitcher.
He also got into 34 games of Rookie ball with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays of the Gulf Coast League where he batted .160 with five doubles and two home runs.
Being promoted to Rookie ball right after high school brought on two significant changes in the young catcher’s life. He would no longer be a student-athlete or a pitcher. The Blue Jays’ plan to have him focus on nothing else but being a catcher.
“I’ve adjusted well I think. It’s easier on my mind since everything is about baseball. Family, friends, and baseball.” he said.
“I’m starting to really enjoy only being a catcher and not having to worry about arm problems on the mound. Catching the ball and then hitting. Hitting comes second here and I really want to start getting my game behind the plate as well as I can.”